By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht 34

Bulls 7

 

Connacht welcomed back fans to the Sportsground for the first time in over a year and they didn’t disappoint their supporters with a 34-7 win over the Bulls in the United Rugby Championship. 

 

Despite conceding an early try to Lizo Gqoboka, the Westerners rallied and scored five tries in a brilliant performance of physical dominance and skill. 

 

Tom Daly crossed for two tries, while player of the match Mack Hansen — on his home debut — Tom Farrell and Tiernan O’Halloran also dotted down five-pointers. The boot of the impressive Jack Carty tacked on three conversions and a penalty to account for the thirty-four points. 

 

The physical South African team started well and, after only a minute, found themselves in front when their loose-head, Gqoboka, powered his way over for a converted try.

 

Connacht, though, didn’t panic and soon after levelled the scores up when a rumbling maul gave them territory in the Bulls’ 22. From there, the ball was worked wide with speed. Tom Farrell throw a beautiful offload out of the tackle to Carty and the fly-half picked out O’Halloran to touch down. The Roscommon native then added the conversion to tie the game up at 7-7.

 

The line out was proving to be an excellent platform for the home team to launch attacks and it was through the set-piece that they took the lead for the first time. After winning a line out, Connacht constructed a move — which included a Kieran Marmion break — that was eventually ended when a Bulls player was penalised for not rolling away. Showing composure, Carty made no mistake to take the score to 10-7 in the Westerners’ favour. 

 

The home team started the second half in a similar fashion to what they finished the first and they had their second try not long into the second period. A probing move from the forwards close to the line — with Abraham Papali’i carrying hard and often — established field position. Then, the ball was worked to the backs and Daly — running on an arc — powered over. Carty once again added the extras and Connacht lead 17-7.

 

It wasn’t long before it became three tries and it was a score worth waiting for. Fielding the ball in his own half, Hansen — with pace in abundance — fired his way down the pitch, evading several tackles, and dove over for a try of individual brilliance. At 22-7, the home team were deservedly ahead. 

 

With the bonus point try in their sights, Connacht continued to play with ambition and a high tempo and their efforts were rewarded with ten minutes remaining. A solid scrum on halfway gave Marmion clean ball to work with. The scrum-half made a burst, fed a pass to Carty and the Roscommon man’s pass was met by Farrell on a clever line. The centre then powered his way through the midfield to touch down for the home sides bonus point. Carty then tacked on the conversion and the Westerners found themselves 29-7 ahead. 

 

The home team weren’t done there, however, and they had a fifth try with the clock in red at the end of the game. Daly, with the aid of team-mates lending their strength close to the line, crashed over the whitewash to seal the win at 34-7.

 

Connacht team: 

 

(15-9) 

 

15: Tiernan O’Halloran 

14: John Porch
13: Tom Farrell 

12: Tom Daly 

11: Mack Hansen 

10: Jack Carty 

9: Kieran Marmion 

 

(8-1)

 

8: Abraham Papali’i

7: Jarrad Butler © 

6: Cian Prendergast

5: Ultan Dillane 

4: Oisin Dowling 

3: Finlay Bealham 

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Jordan Duggan 

 

Replacements: 

 

16: Shane Delahunt for Dave Heffernan 

17: Matthew Burke for Jordan Duggan

18: Jack Aungier for Finlay Bealham

19: Leva Fifita for Oisin Dowling

20: Conor Oliver for Jarrad Butler 

21: Caolin Blade 

22: Paul Boyle for Papali’i

23: Sammy Arnold for Cian Prendergast

FIND YOUR MATCH TICKETS HERE

Centre Tom Daly believes that the lessons learned from last weekend’s defeat away to Cardiff Rugby will stand Connacht in good stead as the season progresses. 

 

The Westerners, who scored two tries through Kieran Marmion with the boot of Jack Carty tacked on three penalties and a conversion, lost 33-21 in a quick tempo, entertaining game at Cardiff Arms Park. 

 

Despite the reversal in Wales, Daly believes Connacht can make amends, starting this Friday when they welcome the Vodacom Bulls to the Sportsground at 7:35 PM. 

 

The game was decided by small margins and the centre — who started alongside the returning Tom Farrell in Wales — is relishing the challenge the South Africans will provide and the opportunity it will provide to put the learnings of the Cardiff defeat into action. 

 

“It’s definitely an opportunity lost, from our point of view,” the Carlow native said. 

 

“We always knew it would be tough going away to Cardiff. It always is. Friendy(Andy Friend) said last week that we only won there twice in the last ten years and it’s probably the best position we have put ourselves in there in the last couple of years. We had that line out five metres out with fifteen to go to go ahead. 

 

“Unfortunately, that didn’t go to plan and then a few lapses in discipline and we lose a few players and you’re never really going to close out the game with thirteen men versus fifteen, so it’s maybe those little things like discipline — and that lapse of concentration at the line out — that we need to really learn from that and improve and it’s a big opportunity this weekend back at home at the Sportsground against the Bulls. 

 

“We know what sort of challenge we’re going to face against them, it’s definitely a different challenge to Cardiff, but we’re looking forward to it.”

 

Friday night’s clash will be the first game that Connacht host with a crowd since October 2020 and Daly — as well as the entire squad and coaching staff — is looking forward to welcoming the Westerners’ faithful back to the Sportsground. 

 

“Definitely,” the 28-year old said when asked if he felt the return of the home crowd would give the Westerners a boost. 

 

“Even playing last week, I know we were away to Cardiff, you can just see the kind of effect it has on the game. When they do something and the crowd gets behind them, it really lifts them. 

 

“We’re looking forward to having a few thousand Connacht fans back in the stadium this weekend and it will definitely give us the kind of lift we need. I’m really looking forward to that and it would be great to get as many in as we can in the Sportsground.”

 

Meanwhile, attack coach Peter Wilkins says that Connacht will need to be at their best — in all aspects of the game — to get their first win of the season against the Bulls. 

 

The South Africans were defeated 31-3 away to Leinster last weekend, but Wilkins says the Westerners must be wary of their smarting opposition. 

 

“I think they will certainly be smarting from it(the Leinster loss),” Wilkins said. 

 

“I thought the performance they put in against Leinster was higher energy and it was highly skilled in parts. They have got some very good players and some established internationals, others that are obviously away, but certainly enough quality that they are a real threat. 

 

“We need to frame them as a momentum team. They want to put you on the back foot at the set-piece, whether that’s in the scrum or the maul or whether that’s in the second phase to bring big runners around the corner or big runners back against the grain.’’

 

Counteracting the physicality of the away team will help the Westerners’ cause, the Englishman said, but Connacht can’t just rely on that and will need to focus on their own strengths such as tempo and speed of their passing and angles of running. 

 

“There’s an enormous physical threat there, but I also think it’s too simple to say they’re purely a momentum team and if you front up physically you’ll get the job done. 

 

“I think there is a bit of nuance there in how we need to play, both in attack and defence, to respect the threats they have got.”

 

Tom Daly and Beibhinn Parsons took home the flagship awards at the 2020/21 Connacht Rugby Awards which were held virtually last week.
 
In lieu of a physical award ceremony, accolades were announced across the week on the Connacht Rugby social media channels, starting and finishing with the Fans’ Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year which were both won by Tom Daly.
 
Daly, who is hoping to make his Ireland debut in the coming weeks, was nominated alongside Gavin Thornbury and Niall Murray for the Fans’ Player of the Year by the Connacht Clan. As well as winning that award, he was also chosen by his squad mates as their standout player in the 2020/21 season.
 
Meanwhile Beibhinn Parsons won the Women’s Player of the Year award for the first time. She was nominated alongside his Connacht teammates Nichola Fryday and Laura Feely, after all three played a part in the Women’s Six Nations campaign.
 
The final major award of the week was Academy Player of the Year which was won by Cian Prendergast. The backrow enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Pro squad, featuring 10 times and earning his first senior contract in the process.
 
The winners will receive their Galway Crystal commissioned award once pre-season training gets underway in the coming weeks.
 
CONNACHT RUGBY AWARD WINNERS 2020/21

Fans’ Player of the Year sponsored by Genesys – Tom Daly

Players’ Player of the Year sponsored by Heineken Ireland – Tom Daly

Women’s Player of the Year sponsored by Intersport Elverys – Beibhinn Parsons

Academy Player of the Year sponsored by Corrib Oil – Cian Prendergast

Try of the Year sponsored by Red Bull – Sean O’Brien (vs Scarlets)

#NeverStopCompeting Moment of the Year sponsored by Bank of Ireland – Peter Sullivan (vs Ulster)

Photo of the Year sponsored by Tribe Hospitality – Bundee Aki & Alex Wootton (vs Ospreys)

Andy Farrell and the coaching team have named a 37 man squad for the Vodafone Summer Series which features two Tests in July against Japan and the USA at the Aviva Stadium.
 
The match against Japan on Saturday 3rd July will kick off at 1.00pm and the fixture against the USA on Saturday 10th July will kick off at 7.15pm. Both fixtures are part of the government’s outdoor pilot sport event programme which will see limited supporters back in the Aviva Stadium.
 
James Ryan will captain the squad during the Vodafone Summer Series and there are 11 uncapped players named – Robert Baloucoune, Tom O’Toole, Nick Timoney (Ulster), Caolin Blade, Tom Daly, Paul Boyle, (Connacht), Harry Byrne, Peter Dooley, Ross Molony (Leinster), Gavin Coombes, Fineen Wycherley (Munster).
 
Andy Farrell, Ireland head coach, said, “We now have two games at home to focus on which will be a good challenge for the group. Japan played the Sunwolves at the weekend and will play the Lions the week before we play at the Aviva Stadium and we know the quality of their squad from the World Cup. We will assemble as a squad on the 22nd June and begin our preparations for the two games.
 
I know the players will come in eager to make the most of this opportunity to pull on the green jersey and play in front of supporters for at the Aviva Stadium for the first time in 18 months.
 
Johnny (Sexton), Cian (Healy) and Keith (Earls) will not be involved in this window as we grow the experience of other players. It will be a great opportunity to see can this group perform at this level.”
 
Both games will be broadcast live by RTE (ROI) and Channel 4 (NI).
 
Ireland Vodafone Summer Series Squad 2021
 
Backs (17)
Will Addison (Ulster/Enniskillen) 4 caps
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) uncapped
Caolin Blade (Connacht/Galwegians) uncapped
Billy Burns (Ulster) 6 caps
Harry Byrne (Leinster/Lansdowne) uncapped
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 22 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 1 cap
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 24 caps
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution) 1 cap
Tom Daly (Connacht/Lansdowne) uncapped
Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 14 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 9 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 11 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 29 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 4 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 34 caps
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 34 caps

Forwards (20)
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 3 caps
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 14 caps
Paul Boyle (Connacht/Lansdowne) uncapped
Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 4 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) uncapped
Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 18 caps
Peter Dooley (Leinster/Lansdowne) uncapped
Caelan Doris (Leinster/UCD) 7 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 5 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 21 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 11 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 43 caps
Ross Molony (Leinster/UCD) uncapped
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 75 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) uncapped
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 35 caps
John Ryan (Munster/Cork Constitution) 23 caps
Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) uncapped
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 31 caps
Fineen Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster) uncapped

Selected for British & Irish Lions Tour:
Bundee Aki, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Robbie Henshaw, Conor Murray, Andrew Porter (inj)

Ireland Summer Test Fixtures:

IRELAND v Japan
Saturday 3rd July, 2021
Aviva Stadium
KO: 13.00hrs
Broadcaster: RTE & Channel 4

IRELAND v USA
Saturday 10th July, 2021
Aviva Stadium
KO: 19.15hrs
Broadcaster: RTE & Channel 4

Benetton Rugby 20

Connacht 12

 

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht were defeated 20-12 by Benetton Rugby in a physical GuinnessPRO14 Rainbow Cup affair at Stadio Comunale di Monigo tonight. 

 

Despite scoring more tries than the hosts, thanks to Shane Delahunt and Paul Boyle dotting down, one of which Tom Daly converted, the Westerners couldn’t eke out the win. 

 

The hosts scored a try of their own — through centre Juan Ignacio Brex —  and the boot of Paolo Garbisi slotted five penalties to give the Italians the win, their fourth victory in succession. 

 

It was a momentous occasion for Denis Buckley, meanwhile, who made his 200th appearance for the province at the same stadium in which he made his debut in 2011.

 

With a dry track, both teams were intent to attack early on and it was Connacht who struck first blood. A powerful rolling maul surged its way towards the line and it was Delahunt who put the finishing touches on the move by diving over the line. Daly slotted the extras and the away team lead 7-0 inside the opening five minutes. 

 

To their credit, Benetton responded well and Brex — the former Argentinian age-grade centre — ran an arching line and collected a pass to run in a try. Garbisi was wide with his conversion attempt, but the home team — who knew a win would keep them in touch for a final berth — would have been content to be on the scoreboard. 

 

The game became more physical and broken after the exciting open ten minutes and it was the Italians who scored next with Garbisi — the Italian international fly half — twice kicking penalties to give the home team the lead at the break at 11-7.

 

Connacht immediately set about wrestling the momentum back in their favour and they were rewarded for their attitude when a second rolling maul bore try-scoring fruit. This time it was Boyle — who was transferred the ball by Delahunt — who touched down and the away team lead by the narrowest of margins, 12-11. 

 

It would be the Westerners last score, however, as the excellent Garbisi brought the Italian team back into the lead with a three pointer from the kicking tee and he added two more penalties late on — when Connacht were reduced to fourteen men after replacement Abraham Papali’i was sent off — to seal the win for the hosts. 

 

Connacht will entertain the Ospreys next weekend with a 6 pm kick-off on Friday evening. 

 

Connacht team: 

 

(15-9)

 

15: John Porch 

14: Peter Sullivan 

13: Bundee Aki 

12: Tom Daly 

11: Alex Wootton 

10: Conor Fitzgerald 

9: Kieran Marmion 

 

(8-1)

 

8: Paul Boyle 

7: Jarrad Butler 

6: Cian Prendergast 

5: Ultan Dillane 

4: Niall Murray 

3: Finlay Bealham 

2: Shane Delahunt 

1: Denis Buckley 

 

Replacements: 

 Dave Heffernan for Delahunt  Paddy McAllister for Buckley Dominic Robertson McCoy for Bealham, Oising Dowling for Murray, Abraham Papali’i for Prendergast,  Caolin Blade for Marmion, Jack Carty for Fitzgerald,  Sammy Arnold for Porch.

Munster 20

Connacht 24

 

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht completed the clean sweep of away interprovincial victories this season after a 24-20 win against Munster in the Rainbow Cup at Thomond Park. 

 

The visitors registered three tries via Sammy Arnold, Conor Fitzgerald, and Kieran Marmion with Fitzgerald tagging on a further nine points via three conversions and a penalty. 

 

The hosts scored two tries and two penalties, but it was Connacht — with their defence solid, especially the line out maul — who sealed a deserved victory.

 

The away team started brightly and after their pressure earned them a shot at goal,  Fitzgerald nudged them ahead with a sweetly struck penalty.

 

Munster responded well and they powered over for the first try of the night when James Cronin barrelled over from close range. With the conversion successful, the home team lead 7-3 in an entertaining opening to the game.

 

Connacht responded brilliantly, however, and from the subsequent restart they opened their try-scoring account. A high restart from Fitzgerald caused confusion in the home team’s ranks and after the ball was spilled, Arnold showed sharpness of mind to claim the ball. The Ireland international, who started the game on the wing, powered through would-be tackles and touched down. Making no mistake,  Fitzgerald slotted a difficult conversion from the corner and the Westerners lead 10-7. 

 

Showing confidence in the attack, the pressure being applied by the Westerners forced Munster into conceding penalties and it culminated in Shane Daily being yellow carded for an intentional knock-on. 

 

With the man advantage and Fitzgerald and captain Tom Daly managing the game superbly with sharp territorial kicking, Connacht were establishing field position deep in the hosts’ half. The away team kicked a penalty to the line and — after an intricate move — the ball was worked to Daly and the centre found Fitzgerald on a loop move. The fly half ran an angled line then stepped and sped into space for a try which he converted to give the visitors a 17-7 lead. 

 

Munster were next to score and they decreased the margin to three points when Rhys Marshall crossed the line from close range and Ben Healy converted. The teams went into the break with Connacht leading 17-14 after an enthralling half of rugby.

 

The Westerners began the second half in blistering fashion and they had a try scarcely a minute in. Strong defence forced a Munster knock-on and from the loose ball Cian Prendergast kicked through. The ball fell to Marmion and the scrum-half pinned his ears back and ran in the try. Fitzgerald kept his 100% success rate off the tee up and Connacht established a 24-14 lead.

 

The scoring was going tit for tat and Munster were next to trouble the scoreboard when Healy drove a long-range penalty between the sticks to reduce the deficit to 24-17.

 

With their tails up, the home side cranked up the pressure and laid siege to the visitors’ 22, but Connacht were stout and committed in defence. Replacement Denis Buckley completed the defensive set when he brilliantly turned over the ball with Munster pushing for a try with fewer than ten minutes remaining. 

 

The hosts weren’t disheartened, though, and they registered a score when replacement Joey Carbery shortened the gap with a penalty to bring the score to 24-20.

 

Munster continued to push and probe, but the Connacht defence — with centre Sean O’Brien and lock Ultan Dillane particularly impressive — held firm to seal the win and complete the sweep of away victories for the Westerners in interpro’s this season. 

 

Connacht team:

(15-9)

15: John Porch 

14: Sammy Arnold 

13: Sean O’Brien

12: Tom Daly (C)

11: Alex Wootton

10: Conor Fitzgerald 

9: Kieran Marmion 

 

(8-1)

8: Abraham Papali’i 

7: Conor Oliver 

6: Cian Prendergast 

5: Ultan Dillane 

4: Niall Murray 

3: Dominic Robertson McCoy

2: Shane Delahunt

1: Paddy McAllister 

 

Replacements: Denis Buckley for McAllister, Finlay Bealham for Robertson McCoy, Dave Heffernan for Delahunt, Sean Masterson for Oliver. Jack Carty for Fitzgerald.  Caolin Blade for Marmion. Peter Sullivan for Arnold. Eoghan Masterson for Papali’i 

Tom Daly will lead out Connacht for the first time after he was named as captain for Friday’s Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup interpro with Munster (k/o 18:00).

Daly has enjoyed a breakthrough season for the province, missing just one game and consistently stringing together some impressive performance from inside centre.

He continues his partnership with Academy centre Sean O’Brien, with former Munster men Alex Wootton and Sammy Arnold named on the wings. John Porch continues at full-back as does Conor Fitzgerald at #10, while Kieran Marmion is drafted into the scrum-half shirt.

There are six changes in the pack including a new look front-row of Paddy McAllister, Shane Delahunt and Dominic Robertson-McCoy. Ultan Dillane returns to partner Niall Murray in the second row, and there are also starts in the back row for Cian Prendergast and Abraham Papali’i alongside the retained Conor Oliver.

Commenting on the team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:

“Tom Daly’s performances this season have been a real plus for us. He consistently brings a huge level of intensity in both attack and defence, and a consistent run of games has allowed him to go from strength to strength. I know he’ll make an excellent captain tomorrow and lead by example again.

We’ve shaken things up a bit in our starting XV with players who deserve a start either through training performances or impacts off the bench. There’s bags of experience among the replacements as well with six centurions so I’m sure they’ll do a job when called upon.”

CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS MUNSTER RUGBY
Friday 14th May, Thomond Park, kick-off 6.00pm

Name/Number/Caps
15. John Porch (38)
14. Sammy Arnold (13)
13. Sean O’Brien (Acad) (9)
12. Tom Daly (46) (C)
11. Alex Wootton (19)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (34)
9. Kieran Marmion (184)
1. Paddy McAllister (16)
2. Shane Delahunt (97)
3. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (65)
4. Niall Murray (15)
5. Ultan Dillane (111)
6. Cian Prendergast (7)
7. Conor Oliver (19)
8. Abraham Papali’i (12)

Replacements
16. Dave Heffernan (142)
17. Denis Buckley (198)
18. Finlay Bealham (157)
19. Eoghan Masterson (109)
20. Sean Masterson (11)
21. Caolin Blade (129)
22. Jack Carty (156)
23. Peter Sullivan (14)

 

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht Rugby and totalhealth Prozone The Inside Track Series continues on Monday next the 15th of March at 7 pm.

 

This series is aimed at all youth club & school players, boys and girls.

 

Connacht Rugby’s Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold will give an insight into the role of a centre in both attack and defence and how the role has evolved and how they develop their skills.

 

This is a fantastic opportunity for young players to get position-specific knowledge from two professional players.

 

This event is free to attend, simply click on the link to register.

 

Please note pre-registration is a must and places are limited. 

 

*** CLICK HERE TO REGISTER ***

By John O’Sullivan

 

Head coach Andy Friend says that Connacht will need to replicate the level of performance shown in their victory over Leinster when they entertain Munster in the Guinness PRO14 this Saturday at 7:35 PM. 

 

The Westerners sealed their 35-24 win at the RDS last weekend — which was their first win away to Leinster since 2002 — through a performance built on intensity on both sides of the ball. The attack yielded four tries, while the defence was organised and aggressive.

 

Friend believes that Connacht will need to produce a similar showing against a Munster team coming to the Sportsground looking to make amends for losing away to Ulster in their last interprovincial clash.

 

“It’s a  crucial game for both”, the Australian said of the upcoming Interpro derby.

 

“I think we’ll get what you always going to get from Munster. They’re going to be physical. When they get a penalty, they’re going to kick to the corner and maul you or they’ll kick three points.  That’s how they get their points, so we’ll have to make sure we’re squeaky clean with our discipline and make sure we don’t give them easy access.

 

“When they do get in(Connacht territory) which they will, no doubt, we’ve gotta make sure that we’re as brave as we were on Saturday, which was really impressive. We know we’re going to have to bring that for 80 minutes. We know exactly what’s coming from Munster. They’re a quality outfit and they’ll have a point to prove.”

 

Friend, meanwhile, praised the leadership characteristics of his squad and that of the several Connacht players who have lead the team out as captains already this season and in the recent past.

 

Quinn Roux — who skippered the team versus Leinster — Paul Boyle, and Jarrad Butler have all captained the team this season and Friend said that their different methods of leadership have helped the squad as a whole.

 

“It’s one of the things we have been trying to build, is our leadership group,” the Australian said.

 

“You will have seen Jarrad’s been our captain, but we’ve also had Caolin Blade, Dave Heffernan, and Paul Boyle as captain and they all bring something different. Eoghan Masterson has stepped in there, too. All those blokes are in our leadership group and they all have a different way of doing it.

 

“It’s just about trying to get a blend of the best bits of their respective leadership qualities and using it at the time. Quinn certainly the way he speaks is, ‘I demand this from you and I want you to deliver for me’, whereas some of the other leaders are ‘follow me, watch what I do and see if you can emulate that.”

 

Elsewhere, centre Tom Daly complimented the culture that Friend and his coaching staff have created at Connacht and says that is has helped him  — and indeed other players — play to the best of their abilities.

 

The 27-year-old continued his impressive run of form with a try versus Leinster — which capped a strong all-round performance against his former club — and he said that the opportunity for game time with the Westerners, coupled with the team spirit at the Sportsground, has helped him acclimatize after his move to the province in December 2018.

 

“The culture is obviously brilliant here,” the Carlow native said.

 

“I think the main thing is getting minutes on the pitch. I’m just really enjoying my time here. I love Galway and I love the lads in the squad. I get on really well with Friendy as well. I think he’s such a good head coach and he’s built such a good culture at this club. I think if you ask anyone in this squad are they happy, they’re all pretty happy whether they’re playing or not.”

 

Daly said that he has enjoyed forming a midfield pairing with Sammy Arnold and that the Irish international’s work rate is helping the team, both in attack and defence. The pair have been regular partners in the centre this season and the former Irish Sevens player said that Arnold’s defensive work has allowed him to express himself in an attacking sense.

 

“I’m enjoying playing with Sammy, to be honest,” the former Lansdowne player said of his centre partner.

 

“He’s a bit of a dog on the pitch and I think and some of the work he does goes unnoticed. He brings really good line speed outside me and that gives me confidence. He does a lot of the unseen work that frees me up to carry a little bit more.

 

“We share the load quite well and we’re kinda building a bit of a combination now. He’s really easy to play with and he talks loads outside me and I’m really enjoying it and I think the move has worked out well for him coming down from Munster. I think he’s played every game this year and he’s covered a few positions, so he’s a real valuable member of that squad and he’s playing very well.”

Leinster 24-35 Connacht

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht registered their first interprovincial victory of the season after a bonus point, 35-24 win away to Leinster at the RDS Arena in the Guinness PRO14. 

 

Two tries from Guinness player of the match Jack Carty — who also kicked three penalties and three conversions — and a try apiece from Alex Wootton and Tom Daly condemned Leinster to their first domestic defeat of the season.

 

The hosts scored four tries of their own via Scott Penny, Luke McGrath, Ryan Baird, and Ed Byrne, but it was the Westerners who deservedly triumphed in a performance built on a foundation of defensive intensity and attacking efficiency.

 

From the outset, it was clear that Connacht would play with tempo on and off the ball and it didn’t take long for that approach to yield try-scoring fruit.

 

Intelligently reading a Leinster move, Carty intercepted the ball on halfway and — backing his pace — ran in a try that he converted himself to give the visitors a more than merited early lead.

 

Leinster, who were unbeaten in the 26 prior PRO14 games, were keen to attack but Connacht were resolute in defence, especially at the breakdown. Conor Oliver was proving especially strong in defence and the Westerners rolled with the host’s punches before they claimed their second try in a fruitful opening 22 minutes.

 

After a line out in the defending champions’ 22, Connacht were patient in possession before working the ball to the flank. Assisted by the considerable size of Quinn Roux, Carty claimed his second try as he powered over from close range in the left-hand corner. The Roscommon was marginally wide with his conversion, but the visitors established a 12-0 lead.

 

Leinster got themselves back into the contest when Penny — spotting a gap at ruck  — smiped in for a try. Connacht, though, realigned themselves and scored on three more occasions before the interval.

 

Carty slotted two penalties before — on the stroke of half time — Wootton touched down for a try in the left corner in a brilliant ten-minute sequence before the break. Once again showing patience in the opposition 22, the ball was worked to the winger and he crossed for a score that Carty nailed from the touchline to see the Westerners go into the break leading 25-5.

 

Leinster started the second half in strong fashion and had a try only three minutes after the resumption. McGrath showed sharp instincts to run in near the posts. Jimmy O’Brien converted and the hosts were within 13 points at 12-25.

 

Connacht’s work at the breakdown was effective and after they won another penalty at the coalface, Carty stepped up and made no error from the tee to extend the Westerners lead further, 12-28.

 

The game was played in an end to end fashion and Leinster were next to score when Baird peeled off a rolling maul to touch down in the corner. O’Brien converted to bring the score to 17-28.

 

With their tails up, the hosts continued to pile on the pressure, but the visitors defence — where Gavin Thornbury, the Masterson brothers, Sean and Eoghan, and Daly were rock solid — was well drilled and eager for contact.

 

Connacht’s line speed was forcing errors from Leinster and it was through this aggressive approach that Andy Friend’s men wrapped up their bonus-point win.

 

Running a hard defensive line, Daly managed an interception and, despite the attention of two Leinster defenders, powered his way over the line for a try which Carty converted to bring the score out to 35-17.

 

Leinster would have the final say with a score from Byrne from close range, but it was Connacht who held out for a deserved win, their first away to Leinster since 2002.

 

Connacht team:

 

(15-9)

15: John Porch

14: Peter Sullivan

13: Sammy Arnold

12: Tom Daly

11: Alex Wootton

10: Jack Carty

9: Caolin Blade

 

(8-1)

8: Sean Masterson

7: Conor Oliver

6: Eoghan Masterson

5: Quinn Roux

4: Gavin Thornbury

3: Dominic Robertson McCoy

2: Shane Delahunt

1: Denis Buckley

 

Replacements: Matthew Burke for Buckley, Jonny Murphy for Delahunt, Conor Kenny for Robertson McCoy, Ultan Dillane for Quinn Roux, Cian Prendergast for S.Masterson, C.Reilly for Blade, Diarmuid Kilgallen for Wootton, Ben O’Donnell for Sullivan

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